The Arctic's polar bear population fell 40 percent in the last 10 years, according to research published Tuesday.
“Here are concrete numbers to show us that the impacts of climate change are happening now,” the World Wildlife Fund's Arctic program director Margaret Williams said, according to CBS.
“We need to change course if we want to stop further habitat loss and ensure resilient wildlife populations, both in the Arctic and around the world,” she warned.
Published by the U.S. Geological Survey, the latest research suggests the polar bear population in the southern Beaufort Sea has stabilized at around 900, after years of rapid decline.
According to the report, the worst years for the bears were between 2004 to 2007, when researchers believe the bears struggled to find food as ice thinned.
Young polar bears were most impacted, with only two out of the 80 cubs seen between 2004-2007 believed to have survived.
According to the study's lead author Jeff Bromaghin, the stabilization of the population in 2007 could be due to polar bears changing their diets. He suggested they may have become more reliant on preying on seal pups, and scavenging scraps left behind by indigenous Alaskan whale hunters.
However, Bromaghin warned these alternative food sources could eventually dry up.
“Ultimately, if there’s no sea ice at all, all of those opportunities go away,” he said, according to the news agency, Canadian Press.
The same day the U.S. research was published, Russian authorities announced a group of scientists planned to do the first polar bear headcount in Russia's Arctic for a decade.
The deputy chief of the Russian Arctic National Park Maria Gavrilo told Itar-Tass that scientists fear polar bear numbers could have fallen since the last census.
“Ten years ago the number of polar bears stood at 3,000,” Gavrilo said. Now, she fears that number could be far fewer.